I have been writing for Carpe Nocturne for a fairly long time now, and I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing artists. When I decided to reach out to Natasha Cox for an interview, I did so as a fan as much as I did a writer. When she agreed, I was beyond elated. I am a huge Mankind is Obsolete fan, and am continually astonished by the talent of frontwoman Tash Cox. I speak often about bands and artists who are diverse, but very few take it to the level she has. Natasha Cox performs in many, and completely different, genres of music. She is brilliant in each. It is my absolute pleasure to present my interview with the amazingly multi-talented Natasha Cox.[MJ]: Congratulations on Mobius Loop! It’s another great album, and like the rest, very eclectic. Where did you draw the inspiration from for this CD? [NC]: Thank you! I really appreciate the kind words. When you put out an album, it represents a chapter of your life, whether it is your own experiences, others around you, or inspiration that whispers in your ear. For this particular album, I had to go on a deep life journey to make it happen. The kind of journey that takes you to Mordor and back. My hope is to connect with other kindred spirits who can relate. [MJ]: I know artists hate this question, but how would you describe MKIO’s music? I know it’s a challenge for me when dealing with bands as diverse as MKIO, so I want to hear it in your words. [NC]: When Jon and I first started the band, we consciously made the decision that we never wanted to put a box or limitation on our music. We didn’t want to be defined by a genre or to have a boundary in terms of what we created. We simply wanted to write songs that were honest and raw. At the time, we were listening to a lot of Godflesh, NIN, Skinny Puppy, Tool, and Neurosis. I know what we put out definitely reflects those influences. At the time, we were still learning how to play our instruments, write songs, make sounds, record, express. It’s all such a process to figure this stuff out. Jon was playing with Hate Dept at the time, so we had the great fortune of being able to work under the guidance of the brilliant Steven Seibold, who mixed our first album. I have such great admiration for the fact that Seibold has such an amazing command of the studio and yet such a raw approach to music, which was completely in line with what we were going for. The consequent albums that have followed have been reflective of more influences and growth….learning more about our instruments, songwriting, ourselves. I don’t know if I could give you a singularly descriptive phrase to describe our music, but I can say that we love to play with dichotomy…light and dark, abrasive and soft, electronic and organic….and that we really love to make music that has a lot of energy live. [MJ]: I know you have been playing some shows recently, but any plans for a MKIO tour? [NC]: We’re playing the Darks Arts festival in Montana in the summer and are definitely looking to tour more for the rest of the year. [MJ]: When is the red hair coming back? [NC]: Haha! Well, splotches of it seem to be slowly appearing in my purple. So perhaps it’s trying to make its comeback? 😉 [MJ]: For your new video, you decided to crowd fund. What does it mean to you as an artist to get that kind of support from your fans? [NC]: I like to think of our “fans” as friends with whom we share a long history. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of a community of people who have supported our work from the very beginning. During our early tours, we made it from town to town because of the support of our friends, who bought our merch, housed us, and fed us. I’ll never forget when our van was completely totaled in an accident, and so many people got together to help us out. Being a musician to me does not just mean playing music. It means getting to share moments and life with people who relate to you in some way. The crowd funding success is a testament to me in what an incredible group of friends we have. I’m really looking forward to sharing out the video when it’s done. Clint Carney, our director, has been sending us clips of it as it’s been developing, and I think that our supporters will be really happy to see what their support has created.
[MJ]: My favorite track off of Mobius Loop is “Lucifer’s Song.” In fact, it’s one of my favorite MKIO songs to date. What was the concept behind this song? [NC]: I was in the mind-frame of telling a story when I wrote the lyrics for this song. I thought of a story where Lucifer is the Morningstar and actually a woman. God has forgotten what love is and has turned his back on a dying earth. The world lies in ashes, and seeing a dying Lucifer in a dying world reminds him of what love is, after the fact, when it’s too late. He holds Lucifer in his arms, and the song is Lucifer’s dying song. [MJ]: When I think of MKIO, I think of some amazing melancholy ballads….Prayer, Fading, More Than What I Am, and now, Empty. Where do these dark, desolate lyrics come from, and how much of this is Tash Cox? [NC]: All the songs I write very much come from a very internal place…whether it’s inside my own consciousness or inside a story I imagine. I have lived through many intense challenges in my lifetime, and writing these songs has been a way for me to cope with them. I truly believe that art and music are some of the most healing gifts that humanity has….it’s the Hope in our Pandora’s box. When people message me to tell me how much a song of ours has helped them with a particular situation in their life, it means the world to me to know that in some small way our music has helped them. Music has literally saved my life many times over, and I like to think that it can help others in the same way. I also love to encourage people to create art of their own, because the act of creating is such a transformative way to alchemize what originally can be the darkest of mud. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. We can’t explain why things happen, but at least we can make beautiful things along the way. [MJ]: In the period between Trapped Inside and Mobius Loop, yourself, Gordon, and Scott launched the indie project Alice, which combines music with performance art. How did the idea come about? [NC]: After our year-long tour, we had a collection of songs that didn’t fit MKIO. We played around with the songs as a three-piece before we started adding other members to the group and deciding that we were going to name this project Alice, an idea that stemmed from playing with surrealism and the concept of time. When we first started conceiving ideas for this project, we imagined it not as a singular band entity but a project in which music was just an element in a vast collective of artists who shared a vision in telling a story. We were asked by Joseph Corsentino, our long-time visual art collaborator, to play at his book release party for his project, Time of the Faeries. From here, we were introduced to the Sypher Art Studios and began a beautiful collaboration that we continue to cultivate. [MJ]: Rumor has it you also sing opera. Are you still active in that medium? [NC]: Yes, I am. I just finished a Puccini one-act opera called Suor Angelica, playing a nun named Sister Genovieffa. Definitely an interesting experience to switch gears in that realm. I love being able to explore these characters and stories with such beautifully written music. Plus my voice gets to explore ranges that it doesn’t get to in other styles of music. Opera has helped me to unlock my voice in a way that I never thought was possible.
[MJ]: From Alice, to Alice Underground…a Jazz band (shaking my head). You are really unpredictable. The music is incredible, but why Jazz? [NC]: Alice has been performing at a masquerade ball called the Labyrinth of Jareth for the past four years. The event is put together by an amazing group of artists who go by Sypher Art Studios, headed by Shawn Strider. The Sypher group decided that they wanted to put a 1920s New Years Eve soiree one year, which became an annual event. Gordon is an incredible upright jazz bassist and was instrumental in helping us to traverse to the jazz world. I happened to have written a jazzy blues song years ago which just lay dormant, since I had no home for it. That particular song grew into a collection of songs that we started writing with Shawn and Sasha Travis. We wanted to explore a different era and yet make it in such a way that it was a time beyond time. After we finish up the next Alice album, we’ll be putting out the Alice Underground album with all these jazz songs that we’ve been working on, with some videos that tell the story of the songs. [MJ]: How is it working with the amazingly talented Sasha Travis? [NC]: Amazing. 😀 Sasha is one of my dearest friends and collaborators. We’re both from Texas and share similar senses of humor, ways of communicating (the accent comes out pretty thickly when the two of us are around each other), and creating. So needless to say, I have so much fun making music with her. We’re also pretty intuitive when it comes to singing together and have found that we can say many things to each other without saying a word. [MJ]: Do you find Alice Underground attracts a completely different crowd, or is the room still filled MKIO fans? [NC]: There are some MKIO fans who traverse our worlds with us, but I’ve been finding that the crowds are vastly different from one another. This makes sense to me, because each style speaks to people in different ways. Some people need the energy of darker, heavier music, and some people resonate more with music that is more light. I love creating both….it’s exciting to me to explore all the mediums that life has to offer, especially since as a human being we have so many layers of emotion and experience within us. [MJ]: I have to ask, how much musical training have you had? Does all of these different styles come natural to you, or are there some that are harder for you than others? [NC]: I have had a great deal of musical training. I started off with classical piano at two and have studied vocals with teachers from many styles, including blues, classical, Indian classical, jazz, and rock. I continue to train, with the hope of continual evolution. I find that studying different styles helps to expand my range and my inspiration. I find jazz to be the easiest to sing, followed by classical, with MKIO being the most difficult of all. Not easy to sing aggressively with the amount of energy it takes live, as well as being able to cut above a loud band in a live venue. Singing definitely does not come as easily to me as keyboards have. I enjoy the work that I put into it, though. [MJ]: In 2012, Mankind is Obsolete was named Musical Ambassadors to Iran. How the heck did that come about, and how was the experience? [NC]: One of our supporters introduced our music to a representative at the US State Department. The State Department has been trying to bridge relations with various countries with art and music. I really love this idea, because I do believe that music is truly a universal language. We were sent to Algeria to spend two weeks in three different cities, performing and teaching workshops for different bands in Algeria. We had the opportunity to meet incredible musicians while we were there and make friends with these wonderful artists. I was really blown away by how passionate and talented the people we met were. Singing is a normal part of their culture, as they have the call to prayer every day. The singing we heard while we were there felt like a natural extension of who they are. The experience as a whole was really amazing, as we had a chance to experience such a beautiful and rich culture. [MJ]: You have performed with such great acts as Android Lust and Kidneythieves. Who is your dream band/artist to share the stage with? [NC]: I feel like I’m already living the dream. 🙂 [MJ]: So what is next for Tash Cox? I’m gonna take a wild stab at this and guess Bluegrass. [NC]: Hmmm. Bluegrass. Well, I’ve learned to never say never, but that may not happen for….a while. 😉 I’m actually really excited about a project that I’ve started singing for called The Beta Machine (www.thebetamachine.com). I’ve been friends with the bassist, Matt McJunkins, for a while, who actually used to occasionally play with MKIO. He started this project with a really gifted drummer, Jeff Friedl, and the two of them have created this incredibly beautiful, groove-oriented music. We’re looking to put out an EP this year and to play shows regionally. Besides all the music, I’ve also been writing stories. I’ve been working on a children’s book series, a screenplay, and a novel. I really love writing. Lots of stories and words that constantly swim around in this brain of mine. 😉 And who knows where the tide will take me next? I feel like there are so many mediums to explore, so many people to create with, and so many experiences to be had. I’m just so grateful for the time I have and the people that surround me.
Alice tash.jpg — Joseph Corsentino of Time of the Faeries
Alice Underground tash.jpg — Greg Autry
Alice-tash.jpg — Robert Coshland